In July of 1783, there was set up by the government at London, a royal commission "to inquire into the losses and services of all such persons who have suffered in their rights, properties, and professions during the late unhappy dissensions in America, in consequence of their loyalty to His Majesty and attachments to the British Government." The members of the commission were to hear claims which had to be submitted by March of 1784. This proved to be a very short time for great numbers of Loyalists, some of whom were undoubtedly illiterate and who were stuck in places which were but a wilderness. The period was extended to May of 1786. In respect to these claims received after March of 1784 ("New Claims"), the claimants were additionally required to state why they could not meet the earlier deadline. Apparently the commission1 examined between four and five thousand claims. Certain members of the commission traveled to America and were to conduct hearings at a number of places, including Halifax.
"The rule which was followed was that claims should be allowed only for losses of property through loyalty, for loss of offices held before the war, and for loss of actual professional income. No account was taken of lands bought or improved during the war, of uncultivated lands, of property mortgaged to its full value or with defective titles, of damage done by British troops, or of forage taken by them. Losses due to the fall in the value of the provincial paper money were thrown out, as were also expenses incurred while in prison or while living in New York city. Even losses in trade and labour were discarded. It will be seen that to apply these rules to thousands of detailed claims, all of which had to be verified, was not the work of a few days, or even months."2
Though there would be those who thought that the above quoted limitations were severe, the fact of the matter is, that a great sum of money was handed out by the British government to the Loyalists.3 It is estimated that £6,000,000, exclusive of the value of the lands that were granted, were spent on the rehabilitation of the United Empire Loyalists. This was to be more than just compensation for that which was lost, but an award, though likely not appreciated at the time, for the future effect that these immigrating Royalists had on the distinctive character of Canada.
As Robert S. Allen concluded in his work The Loyal Americans,4 the impact of the Loyalists on the future of Canada was to be "profound, unique, and permanent." The Loyalists, those that came out on the wrong side of the American Revolution, were to come to areas that today we might distinctly define as Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. For Nova Scotia, this influx of people, with their refined Tory tastes, were to have almost an immediate impact, as much, it seems, as the Romans had on the barbarians in northern Europe.5 By the beginning of the 19th century Nova Scotia was a hot bed for education, law, politics, and (an inventive idea) in world trade. One of the great legacies, for good or bad, which is yet felt today throughout Canada is a grudging mistrust of republican politics which exist in their neighboring country to the south.
"The pro-British bias of the loyalist tradition naturally included a virulent anti-Americanism ... In addition to implanting deep within Canadian cultural attitudes an affection for Great Britain and resentment towards the United States, the Loyalist legacy has profoundly influenced the development and government of the Canadian people."6
The coming of the Loyalists to the Province of Nova Scotia, most certainly had a pronounced effect in the development of its political institutions. These institutions were passed on from province to province as the years of the 19th century wore on. It was a revolution of political process and was attributable, not just to the times (Burke and Paine, et al.) but, as far as Canada is concerned, because of the flood of Loyalists that came in during the years 1782-3. This bloodless revolt, this quick evolution can be best studied by examining the life of John Wentworth. At age 29, through good fortune, John Wentworth was the governor of New Hampshire; and, through bad fortune, he was, seventeen years later, to be without any position at all. Starting over again as the surveyor general, Wentworth came to Nova Scotia in 1783. Waiting his turn in the line up of deserving and needy Loyalists, Wentworth was appointed the Governor of Nova Scotia in 1792. He was a good appointment as he had experience in such matters. His experience, in some ways, was to serve him and the province very well, especially in these times when the people were taking power into their own hands. It would not be a surprize to learn which side John Wentworth was on: this 55 year old aristocrat was of the old school. The Loyalists, taking the same position as they did when Britain went to war with the Americans, and now seemingly with less to lose, continued to assert that the crown had prerogative rights, that is to say, an effective veto over the decisions of the elected representatives of the people. Well, if we go through this piece of political history we will see who won out, or who we think won out.
And now, I conclude this part by turning to Murdoch:
The influx of the Loyalists, many of whom were men of family and education, was, in the main, advantageous, altho' the influence they wielded, owing to their great favor in the eyes of the king, George the third, gave them a growing ascendancy, calculated to throw in the background the merits and services of those families who had originally founded the British colony here, and who had largely contributed to the defence of the land in the French wars. The peace, which had now lasted 9 years, during which all parties had been enabled to pursue their useful avocations without disturbance or even apprehension, had done much to forward the growth of villages and settlements. Education had received an impulse from the establishment of a seminary at Windsor and a grammar school in Halifax. The society to encourage agriculture had been active, and printed at least one volume of its transactions. In our legislative body, much talent has been displayed. The flowing sentences and racy humor of Uniacke - the elegance, astuteness and vigor of Barclay - the earnest and skilled arguments of Isaac Wilkins and colonel Millidge and the ready powers of debate evinced by Charles Hill, Pyke, Crane, Freke Bulkeley and others, gave to the house of representatives a weight and charm in 1789-1790, that has been only twice or thrice repeated in the succeeding years; and the zeal and energy of Cottnam Tonge, in the pious effort to support the interests of his persecuted father, was a precursor signal of Novascotian oratory. Of the distinguished men of the assembly, Crane, F. Bulkeley and Pyke were native Novascotians - certainly the two last were. Crane I can remember as he appeared in the house 20 years later -- a tall, handsome man, with fluent speech, and an amazing readiness of natural wit and illustrative power. In short, I think that this was one of the happy and Halcyon periods of Nova Scotia. The heterogeneous elements of which its population were composed were now settling down into good neighbourhood and harmony. Old grievances and hostilities had died out, and the only fancy line of division was owing to fretfulness of lawyers ...7
[NEXT: PART 4 -- "Nova Scotia And The Turn Of The Century: 1800."]